Russian Literary Heritage Walking Tour, St. Petersburg

Russian Literary Heritage Walking Tour (Self Guided), St. Petersburg

If you're an ardent fan of Russian literature, St. Petersburg is undoubtedly your dream destination. Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol, Nabokov and many other Russia's literary greats have blessed this city with their presence – born, lived, worked, or set their characters here. To a great extent, St. Petersburg is a huge stone book, whose pages have been created by prominent Russian men and women of letters.

At times it may feel like you can’t even turn a corner without finding yourself on the street where this or that seminal literary figure once lived. Many of their former dwellings are now turned into apartment museums: part-shrine to the iconic occupant, part-memorial to the era gone by.

There’s Pushkin Apartment Museum (Naberezhnaya Reki Moyki 12), where the poet wrote many of his masterpieces and died following a duel in 1837; the Dostoevsky Museum (Kuznechnyy Pereulok 5/2), opened almost a century after the author penned The Brothers Kazamarov within its walls; and the Nabokov House Museum (Bol’shaya Morskaya Ulitsa 47), where one of Russia’s most famous exiles and future author of Lolita was born (the apartment now houses his manuscripts and butterfly collection), to mention but a few.

If you wish to nose around these and other apartment museums, explore the localities that have inspired some of the world’s most famous writers and poets, or otherwise find out more about St. Petersburg’s literary heritage, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Russian Literary Heritage Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Russian Literary Heritage Walking Tour
Guide Location: Russia » St. Petersburg (See other walking tours in St. Petersburg)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.9 Km or 3.7 Miles
Author: emily
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Vladimir Nabokov House Museum
  • Angleterre Hotel and Hotel Astoria
  • Monument to Vasily Zhukovsky
  • Kotomin House. Literary Cafe
  • Pushkin Apartment Museum
  • Monument to Alexander Pushkin
  • Nikolai Nekrasov Apartment Museum
  • Anna Akhmatova Museum
  • Dostoevsky Museum
Vladimir Nabokov House Museum

1) Vladimir Nabokov House Museum

The Vladimir Nabokov House Museum pays homage to one of the greatest novelists, poets, and short story writers of the 20th century. The author of Lolita spent the first 18 years of his life in this house.

The first floor of the museum is reserved for the life and works of Nabokov while the upper two floors are occupied by editorial offices of the Nevskoe Vremya newspaper. The building has not survived the ravages of time and history. The only original elements that remain are the stained glass windows. The museum collection was rebuilt from donations of Nabokov’s friends and family. One of the most stunning displays is the drawings of his butterflies. In addition, visitors will see the many photographs, paintings, Nabokov’s pince-nez and Scrabble set, manuscripts, and other works.

The museum also hosts seminars, a summer school, conferences, artistic exhibitions, and Nabokov specific exhibitions. For those who wish to know all things Nabokov, there is an on-site library.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Angleterre Hotel and Hotel Astoria

2) Angleterre Hotel and Hotel Astoria

Angleterre is a modern, luxury business-class hotel at Saint Isaac's Square in Saint Petersburg.

The first hotel on this site, a three-story structure known as Napoleon's, was established by Napoleon Bokin in 1840. The hotel was completely rebuilt in 1886–89, with a fourth floor added and the interiors redone. Simultaneously, the name was changed to Hotel Angleterre, meaning 'Hotel England' in French.

Many great Russian poets, writers, and artists stayed here one time or another. Leo Tolstoy was a frequent guest. The hotel became infamous after poet Sergei Yesenin hanged himself in his suite on 28 December 1925.

While at Angleterre, it is worthwhile to visit the neighboring Hotel Astoria. Opened in 1912, it was built to host tourists visiting Russia for a huge celebration of the tercentenary of the Romanov imperial rule in May 1913. The luxurious hotel was used primarily to house guests of the royal family, and was afterwards popular with the aristocracy.

After the 1917 Revolution, Astoria accommodated members of the Communist Party. Lenin spoke from its balcony in 1919. During the Siege of Leningrad in World War II, the hotel served as a field hospital. Adolf Hitler reportedly planned to hold a victory banquet here, in the Winter Garden. He was so convinced Leningrad would fall quickly that invitations to the event were printed in advance.

Over the years, the hotel's many famous guests have included Vladimir Lenin, Isadora Duncan, Herbert G. Wells, Alexander Vertinsky, Prince Charles, Luciano Pavarotti, Madonna, Elton John, Jack Nicholson, Vladimir Putin, Alain Delon, Gina Lollobrigida, Marcello Mastroianni, Pierre Cardin, Jean Paul Gaultier, Margaret Thatcher, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair and George W. Bush.

Writer Mikhail Bulgakov spent his honeymoon at Astoria in 1932 and is said to have written parts of "The Master and Margarita" in room 412.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Monument to Vasily Zhukovsky

3) Monument to Vasily Zhukovsky

Among the monuments adorning Alexander Garden (Russian: Alexandrovsky Sad) in Saint Petersburg there is one of Vasily Andreevich Zhukovsky. Situated in the section of the park that borders on Palace Square, it casts a somewhat sad look on the outskirts of the garden.

The foremost Russian poet of the 1810s, Zhukovsky left a noticeable imprint in the cultural heritage of the country and is recognized as one of the founders of romanticism in the Russian literature. A leading literary figure of the day, he also gave rise to the national "poetic star" of all times – Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin.

Solemnly inaugurated on June 4, 1887, the Zhukovsky monument had been in the making since 1883, the year of his centenary. All expenses were born by his friend, doctor K.K. Seidlitz, who by that time had published Zhukovsky's biography and donated all proceeds from the publication to the monument. The actual work was carried out by renowned architect A.S. Lytkin and sculptor V.P. Kreitan, producing a bronze-cast bust perched on a 2.25-meter pedestal made of Finnish red granite.

Engraved on its façade is the inscription "Vasily Andreevich Zhukovsky". Below are the lines from a poem by Alexander Pushkin dedicated to Zhukovsky. On the left and right sides of the pedestal there are also lines from Zhukovsky's own poetry.
Kotomin House. Literary Cafe

4) Kotomin House. Literary Cafe

The illustrious Kotomin House (Russian: Dom Kotomina) is a historic landmark, named after its prominent entrepreneur-owner Konon Kotomin, who acquired the property in 1807, some 20 years after being released from serfdom.

At one point, there was a Wolf & Beranget confectionery here, located on the ground floor, which gained popularity and made history on 27 January 1837 when Alexander Pushkin (Russia's #1 poet) visited here about 4pm, en route to his duel with Georges d'Anthès. In less than an hour the poet was mortally wounded and died the following day. The confectionery closed down in the late 1840s.

In 1834, a Chinese cafe operated on the premises, also popular with the local literati, such as Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Taras Shevchenko, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky and others. Towards the end of the 19th century, another eatery – the French restaurant Albert, renowned for its exquisite cuisine and high prices – opened here, frequented by literary luminaries and even royals.

Around the same time, in 1877, Leiner's restaurant, on the second floor, gained popularity with the theatrical lot. Among its habitués were Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Fyodor Shalyapin. Reportedly, Tchaikovsky contracted cholera at this very restaurant after drinking a sip of raw water on October 20, 1893; he died several days later.

In 1978-1981 the Kotomin House was reconstructed and since 1983 the Literary Café has been occupying its two floors. Inside, hung with pictures of Russian writers, it has, among other things, a wax figure of Pushkin sat at one of the tables on the upper floor. In keeping with tradition, the place regularly organizes poetry and music evenings, as well as other artistic events.

The traditional drink of Russia, black tea, is served here in a samovar.
Pushkin Apartment Museum

5) Pushkin Apartment Museum

The National Pushkin Museum (aka the All-Russian Museum of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin) at 12 Moika Embankment is the last home address of Alexander Pushkin where he spent the final four months of his life. Russia's #1 poet and his family lived here in a rented apartment from early September 1836 until a fatal duel on 27 January 1836 with Georges d'Anthès. The latter was challenged by Pushkin for attempting to seduce his wife, Natalia Pushkina.

After the poet's death, the house was rebuilt several times. The architectural appearance of the Pushkin apartment has also changed significantly. In the fall of 1924, the flat was taken over by the Pushkin circle of the Old Petersburg society who commenced its reconstruction which lasted several years. The very first museum comprising only several rooms opened in 1927 and then, significantly transformed for the 100th anniversary of the poet's death, reopened in February 1937. The museum took its current shape only in 1953, featuring over 200,000 artifacts, including memorabilia, books and works of art related to Pushkin.

Among the author’s personal items on display are his writing desk and much loved Voltaire's armchair, travel box and desk, walking sticks and a smoking pipe, an inkwell with a little arapie and many more. Other special exhibits include Pushkin's death mask, a lock of his hair, and the vest he was wearing on the day of the fight, plus the original sofa on which the poet died on 29 January 1837. In the room of the poet's wife you can find her portrait made by Alexander Brullov in 1832, her perfume bottle, coral bracelet, wallets embroidered with beads and silk, and other memorabilia.

Each year, the museum holds two memorials: the birthday of Pushkin and the anniversary of his death during which a moment of silence is observed at 2:45 pm, when Pushkin’s heart stopped beating.

Why You Should Visit:
Well worth a visit if you love literature and Russian literature in particular.

A little dexterity might be needed to stay in front of or behind the groups of Russian schoolchildren, and be aware that you need to purchase an additional ticket to be allowed to use your camera/phone.
Monument to Alexander Pushkin

6) Monument to Alexander Pushkin

While there are several statues of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin in St. Petersburg, the finest of them all, in many's opinion, is the one fronting the State Russian Museum in the center of Arts Square (Russian: Ploshchad Iskusstv).

This monument was created by sculptor M.K. Anikushin and architect V.A. Petrov and was inaugurated on June 19, 1957 to mark the 250th anniversary of the city. Then known as Leningrad, Russia's northern capital was, of course, founded in 1703, but the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 delayed celebrations by a full four years.

The cast-bronze statue stands over 4 meters high and together with a red granite pedestal measures 7 m 90 cm. On the front side of the pedestal is the inscription carved in gold: "Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin".

In the process of working on the monument, Anikushin made a large number of sculptural and graphic portraits of the poet. Remarkably, but the magnificent sculpture seen today emerged after the state commission had already approved an earlier version. Anikushin nonetheless perceived that variant insufficiently illustrative of Pushkin's personality which, in his own words, was of “vivid character, straightforward in actions and clear in thoughts”. “I therefore tried to get rid of all the superfluous details, I wanted the figure of Pushkin to radiate joy," he said.

Pursuant to his determination, the sculptor, at his own expense, created a new variant that is currently in place, capturing the poet in motion, his head raised and his face beaming with inspiration. For this work, Mikhail Anikushin was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1958.
Nikolai Nekrasov Apartment Museum

7) Nikolai Nekrasov Apartment Museum

36 Liteiny Prospect is where Nikolai Alexeevich Nekrasov, one of Russia's most distinguished poets, spent the last 20 years of his life, from 1857 until 1877.

During his time at Liteiny, Nekrasov also used his apartment as an editorial office of two of the country's most progressive magazines of the second half of the 19th century: Sovremennik [“Contemporary”] conceived and first published by Pushkin; and Otechestvennye Zapiski [“National Notes”]. It is said that "the history of these rooms is the history of literary relations of an entire era, the history of Russian journalism." Indeed, all the top names of the Russian literature of the post-Pushkin period, such as Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Ostrovsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, and many other prominent poets and writers had visited here.

The museum opened in 1946. Presented here are Nekrasov's personal belongings, rough copies of his manuscripts and final version of handwritten verses and poems, as well as first editions of printed publications and photographs alongside illustrations and portraits of the poet made by famous Russian artists – Ivan Kramskoy and Konstantin Makovsky.

Following a 1985 restoration of the rooms occupied by Nekrasov's co-editor and great friend – Ivan Panaev – a so-called "Panaev's half" has been established. Another part of the museum is dedicated to Andrei Kraevsky, a prominent writer, publisher and publicist who also happened to be the last owner of the property in which the museum is located.

The Nekrasov museum regularly hosts cultural events: concerts, theme parties, literary readings and "Friday" music nights, as well conferences attended by literary scholars, writers and poets. There are also interactive excursions for children, literary games, and exhibitions of emerging artists.
Anna Akhmatova Museum

8) Anna Akhmatova Museum

The Anna Akhmatova Museum in Fountain House pays homage to the acclaimed Russian poet of the Silver Age, author of 'Requiem', 'White Flock', 'Poem Without a Hero' and many other verses.

Born Anna Gorenko in Odessa, today's Ukraine, in 1889, Akhmatova was a prolific and talented writer who suffered greatly under the Soviet system. In 1910, she married a fellow poet Nikolai Gumilyov. Soon after their marriage, Akhmatova began to publish her own poetry. The Russian Revolution of 1917 had a major impact on Akhmatova’s life. Her first husband, Gumilyov, was executed, son – imprisoned, and her third husband died in a Siberian camp. In addition, she was constantly monitored by the security service and her work banned. Akhmatova died in 1966 in Leningrad.

Located in the southern wing of the former Sheremetev Palace, the museum recounts the day-to-day life of the author as well as honors her literary accomplishments. Many of Akhmatova’s personal belongings are available for viewing. Photographs, recordings of her voice, books, and manuscripts from the author and her friends are among the items displayed.

The museum serves as a cultural center for the community and exhibitions occur frequently. Patrons may enjoy literary readings, presentations, concerts, art festivals, and conferences on Anna Akhmatova. The museum averages 30,440 visitors per year and contains over 50,000 items in its collection.

Why You Should Visit:
Small museum with very friendly staff; gives you the feeling of what living was like in the city in the years before and during WWII.
The ambiance of each room features period music, original furnishing, paintings & manuscripts.

Don't forget to take a tour or an audio guide (the latter is available once you get upstairs to the museum – not at the same place you buy your ticket).
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Dostoevsky Museum

9) Dostoevsky Museum

The Dostoevsky Literary Memorial Museum at 5/2 Kuznechny Lane is by far not the only St. Petersburg address of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Still, the ultimate choice of this location for the museum was made since it was here that the writer lived twice, including the last few years of his life – from October 5, 1878 until his death on January 28, 1881 – and wrote his last novel "The Brothers Karamazov".

From the basement, a spiral staircase leads all the way up to the museum which opened its doors on November 11, 1971, marking the 150th anniversary of the writer. The permanent exposition comprises two parts: Dostoevsky's memorial apartment and a literary exposition.

The memorial apartment consists of seven rooms: Dostoevsky's office, living room, dining room, Anna Grigorievna's (Dostoevsky's wife) room, nursery, washroom and hallway. The furnishings have been recreated with the help of archival plans and memoirs of contemporaries. Andrei Fyodorovich Dostoevsky, the grandson of the writer, made a significant contribution to the museum, while Maria Savostyanova, Dostoevsky's grandniece, also donated some of the items.

The literary exposition is set in the halls opposite the memorial apartment. The division of the exposition into two parts is reflected in the name of the museum - “Literary Memorial”. The fundamental difference between the two parts is that the memorial apartment as a whole remains unchanged, while the literary exposition is subject to periodical changes. There is also a small theater attached to the museum to host conferences and poetry readings.

Why You Should Visit:
The price is fair, the staff are polite, the rooms are lovingly recreated and the information provided by the audio guide is super comprehensive and very engaging.

If you visit, check out the farmers market on the same side of the street, between the museum and the metro station. It's fun to shop as the locals do!
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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